To the editors of The Student Printz:
I would like to comment on the proposal to make USM smoke-free in fall 2016. While the idea is that this will make the campus healthier for non-smokers and perhaps encourage smokers to quit, there is little evidence to support this.
First, almost all studies of secondhand smoke involve people who are in small, enclosed spaces such as bars and restaurants, not in outdoor spaces such as our designated smoking areas. Regardless, no one on this campus is forced to be around us smokers, and if they choose to be, they are not in enclosed spaces.
Second, despite all the efforts to get us to quit, 25 percent of Americans still make the choice to do what is perfectly legal. Forcing us off campus is not going to change that. We will quit when we are ready, not because you want to force health on us.
But for me, the real loss for us at the Liberal Arts Building patio will be the community that we have formed. Smoking is not just personal; it has social components. We smokers sit on the LAB patio between classes and we talk to each other — unlike non-smokers who sit with their faces glued to their smart phones and never talk to each other.
We discuss politics and culture and other interesting things that were discussed in class or seen on the news. For myself, I thoroughly enjoy the time I spend on the patio with students — not just mine. I establish real relationships with them. I learn their names, what they like and dislike, what is going on in their lives and more.
If I am forced to go off campus to smoke, I will lose this valuable time connecting with students. And students who know they can find me on the patio are more likely to come find me there than in my office. It is very lonely holding office hours in my office.
Kicking smokers off campus will change little as far as health is concerned, but it will diminish the quality of the social environment for many of us.
In a world where so many of us already feel isolated and disconnected, I find it sad that the SGA wants to add to that isolation and disconnection. I support the SGA’s effort to improve the quality of food on this campus, since obesity actually creates more health-related problems and increases health costs more than smoking, but I wish they would consider that making USM smoke-free has social costs that are rarely considered in this debate.
Professor of Political Science
Kate Greene, Ph.D.